Changing the light-bulb as we know it.

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1 Roy Ascott:
The Cybernetic Art Matrix. Leonardo Vol 1 Issue Two.

2 Jules Marshall:
Hextacy. Wired (American Edition),
March 1994

3 Greg Blonder:
Faded Genes.Wired (American edition),
March 1995

Getting on the arts Internet would be a marvellous idea were it not for the abiding truth of the saying "Hell is other people", I might want to link up with Bill Gates or Brian Eno but instead I'd get inundated with Photoshop generated images from a Satanist, living in a caravan on Canver Sands, of his own visual interpretations of the songs of Metalica. Or perhaps the randomised poetry of a Bank Clerk in Djakarta or the Sudanese experimental novelist who's work is comprised solely of punctuation marks and spaces......

One thing we can count on in the future is that people will be selling us fantastic dreams about what the future will bring. The anti-gravity train never arrived and the car that ran on water never got started. At the time the models on Tomorrow's World looked so convincing.

One new idea that has been around as long as Raymond Baxter is the idea of a world-wide computer information system which will change the way we work rest and play. In 1968 when the Internet was far ahead in the future (when a computer which could work out your bus fare was the size of a suitcase) the shining dream of a computerised community, which would be democratic and circumnavigate existing power structures, was being formed in the air. The people who talked about it didn't have the words to express what they meant or access to the technology needed to achieve it but they nevertheless had the dream.

In 1968 Roy Ascott used the term "The Cybernetic Art Matrix" in an article for Leonardo (A journal of art and technology).

This was his Claim: "The Cybernetic Art Matrix (CAM) will spread creative involvement and responsibility over the whole community to the extent that the specialist term "artist" becomes redundant. The almost universal leisure of the cybernated society will enable everyone to participate in creative play and learning....
A creative situation event or artefact can thus be developed within the CAM facilities by individuals in Tokyo, London and Los Angales, say, on location in the Sahara, or in the shared space-time continuum of T.V."1

These two quotes outline three of the central ideas about the possibilities of computers which are still with us today and which the communications industry relies upon. They might variously be described as myths about access to information or as markers charting the changing definition of human consciousness. The first is technical and a real time-computerised network has come to pass. The second idea is more political and assumes that a social revolution will take place which will be democratising. Along with this goes the idea that our attitudes about our social role and our ideas of the essential self will be radically altered by the network.

These ideas never went out of fashion and the promise of jam tomorrow is still being made. Matt Black from Hex and the Future Sounds of London describes their Multi-Media-Techno-Melange as: "A conversation between man and his technology [that] will be listened to by life forms of the future"2. This particular futurological spin out argues that we are entering the next stage of evolution (assisted by computers). The Post-Human phase will mean that there will be an erosion of our essential selves, our egos will dissolve like an aspirin into cyberspace. This is because the nature of information technology requires that we change. The embodiment of a person's idea has previously existed within recognisable boundaries - the book, the film, the sculpture, the painting - and our understanding of intellectual property has been defined by containers which can be clearly labelled with the author's name. The computer removes those boundaries and things just spill out and become absorbed within the whole. Back in 1968 Roy Ascott, describing his vision of the CAM, wrote:
"There is a sense in which the CAM is an endless happening, a continuous creative event, a sum of all its behaviours unlimited and learned within its perimeters"2
The future for Ascott as with Black is to do with the perpetual action of interaction. It seems that people are dead excited because we've hammered through into a previously unexplored room called cyberspace. It's as thin as light and yet holds within it a potential infinity. The temptation on discovering an empty room is to decorate it, fill it with furniture and put up some pictures.

Before the invention (I hesitate to say discovery) of cyberspace all that which was outside our own physical experience occupied a metaphysical realm, in the form of notions of god, of heaven, of ideal places or aesthetic constructs which were products of our own imaginations. Cyberspace presents us with a whole new area which is a metaphysical space whilst at the same time not being so. It is notional and actual and might therefore be categorised as Meta-technological.

Nature abhors a vacuum and how we choose to fill the gap becomes an interesting question. We may choose to fill it with the collective dreaming of ancient tribes, a techno zen, a utopia, a dystopia, a theme park littered with ultra complex versions of the roller coaster, the dodgems and the shooting arcade. There will be a special for Joe Public in the form of an array of pre-formatted, pre-masticated fantasies.

According to scientist Greg Blonder if we allow for the exponential growth of the intelligence of computers by 2088 they will be as smart as we are and by 2090 they will be twice as smart by which time they will be figuring out whether its still necessary to have us around at all 3. It might be just be another spin-out from the rapidly expanding futurology industry so as a bit of fun here's my own prediction: in the year 2088 the number 28 bus will still run from Wandsworth to Golders Green.....

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